In a striking revelation during a B.C. Supreme Court hearing in Smithers, audio recordings have surfaced showing RCMP officers referring to First Nations pipeline opponents as “orcs” and “ogre.” These recordings, played in court on Wednesday, stem from a police raid at the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction blockade in November 2021.
The court heard these recordings during the abuse of process application filed by Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), a Wing Chief of Cas Yikh from the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation; Shaylynn Sampson, a Gitxsan woman with Wet’suwet’en family ties; and Corey Jocko, a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) individual from Akwesasne. All three were recently convicted of criminal contempt of court for defying a 2019 injunction against the blockade of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The abuse of process application alleges that the RCMP used excessive force during the arrests and that the detainees faced unfair treatment in custody. The application requests either a stay of charges or a reduction in sentencing, considering the alleged police misconduct.
During RCMP Supt. James Elliott’s cross-examination, defense lawyer Frances Mahon presented three audio clips as evidence. These recordings, captured by journalist Amber Bracken and filmmaker Michael Toledano, who were both arrested at the site, contain disturbing content.
In one recording, officers are heard labeling blockade members with face paint as “orcs,” comparing them to monstrous creatures from fiction. This is particularly distressing as the individuals, including Sleydo’ and Sampson, were wearing red dresses and red handprints over their mouths, symbols of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls movement.
Supt. Elliott apologized for the officers’ behavior but stated he was unaware of their identities.
Further disturbing content emerged in another clip, where officers laugh about the rough treatment of an arrested individual and make offensive comments about his condition.
In a third clip, officers are heard joking about breaking down doors during the raid, likening their actions to a scene from the horror movie “The Shining.”
Supt. Elliott acknowledged the inappropriate nature of these comments, citing the RCMP’s usual practice of using non-lethal gas in such situations. He noted that in this instance, he believed using gas would have exacerbated the situation.
This case has brought significant attention to the conduct of law enforcement in tense situations and raises questions about the treatment of Indigenous peoples and those involved in environmental protests.